Anticipatory neural dynamics of spatial-temporal orienting of attention in younger and older adults

Simone G. Heideman, Gustavo Rohenkohl, Joshua J. Chauvin, Clare E. Palmer, Freek van Ede, Anna C. Nobre*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Spatial and temporal expectations act synergistically to facilitate visual perception. In the current study, we sought to investigate the anticipatory oscillatory markers of combined spatial-temporal orienting and to test whether these decline with ageing. We examined anticipatory neural dynamics associated with joint spatial-temporal orienting of attention using magnetoencephalography (MEG) in both younger and older adults. Participants performed a cued covert spatial-temporal orienting task requiring the discrimination of a visual target. Cues indicated both where and when targets would appear. In both age groups, valid spatial-temporal cues significantly enhanced perceptual sensitivity and reduced reaction times. In the MEG data, the main effect of spatial orienting was the lateralised anticipatory modulation of posterior alpha and beta oscillations. In contrast to previous reports, this modulation was not attenuated in older adults; instead it was even more pronounced. The main effect of temporal orienting was a bilateral suppression of posterior alpha and beta oscillations. This effect was restricted to younger adults. Our results also revealed a striking interaction between anticipatory spatial and temporal orienting in the gamma-band (60–75 Hz). When considering both age groups separately, this effect was only clearly evident and only survived statistical evaluation in the older adults. Together, these observations provide several new insights into the neural dynamics supporting separate as well as combined effects of spatial and temporal orienting of attention, and suggest that different neural dynamics associated with attentional orienting appear differentially sensitive to ageing.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)46-56
Number of pages11
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2018
Externally publishedYes


This work was supported by the Medical Research Council and Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council UK MEG Partnership award (grant number MR/K005464/1 ), the NIHR Oxford Health Biomedical Research Centre , the James S. McDonnell Foundation Understanding Human Cognition Collaborative Award 220020448, the European Union FP7 Marie Curie ITN Grant 606901 (INDIREA), a Wellcome Trust Senior Investigator Award (grant number 104571/Z/14/Z ) to ACN, a Marie Skłodowska-Curie Individual Fellowship (grant number 655374 ) from the European Commission to FvE, and by a Rhodes Scholarship and Canadian Centennial Scholarship Fund to JJC. The Wellcome Centre for Integrative Neuroimaging is supported by core funding from the Wellcome Trust ( 203139/Z/16/Z ). The authors declare no competing financial interests. We thank Ian Gould for his help with design, piloting and data collection. We thank Sven Braeutigam, Rob Mok, Nick Myers and Jessica Gaunt for their assistance with data collection. We thank Mark Woolrich, Céline Gillebert and Andrew Quinn for their help with data analysis. Appendix A

FundersFunder number
European Union FP7 Marie Curie ITN
Wellcome Centre for Integrative Neuroimaging
James S. McDonnell Foundation220020448
Center for Outcomes Research and Evaluation, Yale School of Medicine203139/Z/16/Z
Wellcome Trust104571/Z/14/Z
Horizon 2020 Framework Programme655374, 606901
Medical Research Council
Engineering and Physical Sciences Research CouncilMR/K005464/1
Rhodes Scholarships
European Commission
NIHR Newcastle Biomedical Research Centre


    • Ageing
    • Anticipatory attention
    • MEG
    • Oscillations
    • Spatial orienting
    • Temporal orienting


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